Cricket has had its fair share of miscreants, scoundrels, cheats and downright rotters over the years. Former South African captain Hansie Cronje was found guilty of match-fixing in April 2000 © Getty Images
Cricket has had its fair share of miscreants, scoundrels, cheats and downright rotters over the years. Former South African captain Hansie Cronje was found guilty of match-fixing in April 2000 © Getty Images


By David Green


Whilst not quite plunging to the depths of its football cousin, cricket has had its fair share of miscreants, scoundrels, cheats and downright rotters over the years.


Here’s an XI of cricket criminals:


1. Mark VermeulenAssaulting a spectator, Arson:


The former Zimbabwe batsman seems to be a couple of pennies short of a six pence and in 2006, he really lost the plot. First, after being heckled during a Lancashire League match he reacted in a Cantonaesque fashion by first throwing the ball and then a metal boundary marker at a spectator. After being banned for a year, he headed back home and promptly burned down Zimbabwe’s Cricket Academybefore twice demanding an audience with President Mugabe by banging on the gates of his presidential palace.


2. Navjot SidhuCulpable homicide:


In December 2006, Navjot Singh Sidhu – a veteran of 51 Tests for India – was found guilty and sentenced to a three-year prison term for culpable homicide. This followed a road rage incident in 1988, which left a 65-year old man dead from injuries inflicted by Sidhu. After an appeal, the Supreme Court stayed his conviction and sentence allowing Sidhu to contest and win the Amritsar parliamentary seat in February 2007.


3. Peter RoebuckAssault:


The former Somerset captain was convicted at Taunton Crown Court in 2001 of assaulting three young South African cricketers he had offered to coach at his home in Devon. He had warned them beforehand that he would use corporal punishment if they failed to obey his “house rules”, and subsequently caned all three boys on their buttocks at different times for misbehaviour”.


Roebuck escaped with a suspended jail sentence and destroyed reputation, admitting to the court that “obviously I misjudged the mood…”


Roebuck scurried off to Australia where he is now a respected cricket journalist.


4. Hansie CronjeMohammad AzharuddinSaleem MalikSalman ButtCorruption, Match-fixing, Spot-fixing:


Take your pick from this vile quartet of former international captains who all chose money and greed above their countries; corrupting younger team members and plunging cricket into crisis in the bargain. It’s a shame that the number 11 in our XI didn’t save a bullet each for this disgraced foursome although given Cronje’s demise in a plane crash we could save two bullets for Butt. Just to make sure.


5. Jacob MartinAlleged People Trafficking:


Martin, who played 10 ODIs for India between 1999 and 2001, was arrested at the end of April 2011 after evidence that he had been involved in a human trafficking incident in 2003. It is alleged that Martin formed a bogus team as cover for trafficking a young boy into the United Kingdom. It seems there may be a silver lining though for Martin, as reports have recently confirmed that he has made Tihar Jail’s 1st XI.


6. King Henry VIII Cricket:


Whether Henry VIII (who surely could have an all-rounder in the mould of WG Grace) should be considered a criminal depends on your viewpoint of history. But he did criminalise the entire game of cricket at the height of the Reformation in 1536 when he ordered the youth of the realm to practice archery instead of “frivolous” activities “such as cricket-a-wicket”. It is not known whether Anne Boleyn’s execution in the same year had anything to do with her playing surreptitious games of cricket with her ladies-in-waiting and the King’s Privy Council.


7. Edward PooleyGambling, Match-fixing:


Pooley would have been England’s wicket-keeper in the inaugural Test in Melbourne in 1877. Instead he got himself into a spot of bother after taking a wager on one of MCC’s tour matches in New Zealand, which resulted in a violent disagreement and a court appearance. This meant he literally missed the boat to Australia. Unsurprisingly, Pooley was never selected again and died in poverty in 1907.


8. Chris LewisCocaine Trafficking:


The former England all-rounder was jailed for 13 years in 2009 after being found guilty of smuggling cocaine into Britain. Lewis hid the drug in liquid form in tins of fruit and vegetable juice stashed in his kit bag. He always was a bit of a lemon, not exactly renowned for his intelligence during a career that promised much but delivered little. Perhaps the best example of Lewis’s lack of faculty came when he decided to shave his head on a tour of the West Indies, and was dubbed ‘The Pratt without a Hat’ after being forced off the field with sunstroke.


9. Montague DruittAlleged serial killerJack the Ripper suspect:


Druitt could well be the most notorious cricket criminal of them all. He was found drowned in the River Thames at the age of 31 in 1888. A keen all-rounder, he represented Winchester College, and the Morden Cricket Club of Blackheath amongst others. But Druitt may have led a sinister double-life with many Jack the Ripper experts concluding that Druitt was the man responsible for the infamous Whitechapel murders.


10. Terry JennerWhite collar robbery:


The rehabilitated cricket criminal. A leg-spinner who played nine Tests for Australia in the 1970s, Jenner’s life nosedived after retiring and by 1988 he had lost his liberty after being caught stealing from his employer to repay gambling debts. Released after 18 months of his six-and-a-half-year term, Jenner hooked up with a young blond Victorian leg-spinner (Shane Warne) and the rest is history.


11. Leslie HyltonMurder:


He may not be a household name, but Hylton – a fast bowler who played six Tests for the West Indies in the 1930s – is the only Test cricketer to have been executed – for murdering his adulterous wife. It doesn’t appear to have been a case of a miscarriage of justice either as Hylton’s defence that he had meant to shoot himself but missed fell apart when it was revealed that his wife’s body had just the seven bullets in it.


(David Green is the brain behind the irreverent The Reverse Sweep blog and also writes for a number of cricket publications and sites such as World Cricket Watch. You can follow him on Twitter also@TheReverseSweep. David was a decent schoolboy and club cricketer (and scored his maiden 100 the same week that Sachin Tendulkar scored his first Test ton) but not good enough to fulfil his childhood dream of emulating Douglas Jardine by winning the Ashes in Australia and annoying the locals into the bargain. He now lives with his wife and two young children in the South of France and will one day write the definitive biography of Hedley Verity)